BRUNSWICK, Ga. (Feb. 6) — The red, white and blue of the revived Dunn-Benson Racing No. 1, just like the old days for Earl Pearson Jr., proved to be winning colors.
The Jacksonville, Fla., driver and long-time Golden Isles Speedway racer took advantage of a pair of frontrunners who fell by the wayside, leading the final nine laps for a $10,000 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series at the Georgia Boot Super Bowl of Racing. The four-time series champion notched his first victory since last July while nabbing the first points race of 2015.
“This is unbelievable. I mean, the second race out with a brand new team, we’re sitting in victory lane, a TV race. I mean, it's just unbelievable,” said Pearson, who rejoined Dunn-Benson team co-owners Carlton and Kemp Lamm after eight seasons with Bobby Labonte Racing. “Two months ago, we didn’t have anything. We didn’t have cars, we didn’t have tools, we didn’t have anything. All we had was a truck and trailer. So we had to put everything together in two months … whoever dreamed we’d be sitting victory lane (after) the second race?”
The sixth-starting Pearson kept eighth-starting Jared Landers of Batesville, Ark., in check over the final laps for his first victory at the 4/10-mile oval since the 2008 season.
Landers, making his first feature start in a Sweet-Bloomquist Race Car, finished second in the first points race of the season while Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., charged from 13th to finish third. Donald McIntosh of Dawsonville, Ga., posted his best series finish in fourth and Stormy Scott of Las Cruces, N.M., was fifth for his second straight top-five finish.
Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., broke while leading for the second straight night, this time holding the point for 36 laps before his failing right-front suspension gave up, sending him into the wall and ending his night on a tow-truck.
That handed the lead to polesitter Ross Bailes of Clover, S.C., who briefly overtook Davenport on the 23rd lap and went back to work as the leader on lap 37 upon Davenport’s demise.
But just four laps after Davenport’s car was towed away, Bailes awkwardly exited turn four with a flat left-rear tire as Pearson took command before the caution flag appeared.
On the final restart, Pearson led the field single-file with Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., working into second, but falling by the wayside with engine problems with four laps remaining. Pearson stayed far enough ahead of Landers to avoid a serious challenge in the final laps.
“I don’t think we had the best car tonight, but under the circumstances, with Davenport (breaking) and the other boy, I guess he and a left-rear flat, we was just there. … I saved my tires and everything just fell my way, there ain’t no doubt about it,” Pearson said. “Those last five laps I just let 'er rip to see what we had.”
Landers was glad to bring home a second-place finish, but he regretted the lap-37 restart when he slipped from second to fifth when he tried a high-side run — an ill-advised move during a season where he plans to work with Scott Bloomquist to tame his hard-charging tactics.
“On the restart, I chose the top and, I just bottomed out. In my mind, I was like, 'Should I do this, or should just stay patient and run the bottom?' What I chose to do was what I normally liked to do, and it liked to have cost me,” Landers said. “I’m surprised I didn’t break something. I was like, 'Please, just let me get through this, and I’ll ride and make it happen.' ”
Earlier leader Davenport and Bailes both regretted not being around at the finish. Davenport sensed problems with the right-front corner in the first half of the race, but he managed to drive the car through the problems until his No. 6 careened into the wall.
“I was just trying to ride it out,” said Davenport, whose car overheated while leading Thursday’s non-points race after 10 laps. “Then it just continually getting worse and worse, and then it finally, whatever happened, broke completely off and I hit the wall on the outside. I don’t know. It’s just disheartening.”
Bailes, in a single-weekend deal with car owner Troy Baird, ran among the top five Thursday before damaged dropped him back. And on Friday he found his way into the lead with 14 laps remaining, only to fall from grace again.
“Tonight we rolled off the rim leading the race … we were right there with 'em,” he said. “We’ve just gotta finish the race now.”
The feature was slowed by four cautions, first for a fourth-lap yellow when home-state driver Steven Roberts got caught up in the turn-four wall, then again on the seventh lap when Austin Kirkpatrick spun in turn two. A lap-37 yellow waved for Davenport and again on lap 42 for the departure of Bailes.
The Super Bowl of Racing wraps up Saturday night with another $10,000-to-win Lucas Oil event with Southern Thunder Limited Late Models on the undercard. Hot laps are scheduled for 5 p.m.
Notes: Pearson notched his first victory for Dunn-Benson since winning Eldora Speedway’s World 100 in 2006. … Fourteen drivers completed 50 laps. … Reigning series champion Don O’Neal started 18th and finished seventh. … The feature hit the track about 8:20 and lasted 20 minutes. … Jason Fitzgerald of Middleburg, Fla., Pearson’s former crew chief, won the Southern Thunder Late Model Series opener on the undercard.
Chris Madden won the consolation race, outrunning polesitter Don O'Neal. Also transferring was Dennis Erb Jr., home-stater Steven Roberts (started 12th), Austin Kirkpatrick and Mike Benedum. Steve Francis and Eddie Carrier Jr. were forced to take provisionals for the main event. Tail-starting Ivedent Lloyd was up to ninth when he smashed the backstretch wall on the sixth lap, drawing a caution and requiring a wrecker. His car had heavy right-front damage.
Finish (top six transfer): Chris Madden, Don O'Neal, Dennis Erb Jr., Steven Roberts, Austin Kirkpatrick, Mike Benedum, Steve Francis, Eddie Carrier Jr., Chris Brown, Doug Sanders, Dan Schlieper, Jay Sessoms, Kelly Guy, Ivedent Lloyd Jr., Austin Rettig. Scratched: Russell Brown Jr., Mack McCarter.
Thursday’s feature winner Eddie Carrier Jr. may face taking a provisional starting spot after losing a cylinder in the powerplant in his primary car, forcing him to a backup. The backup car didn’t perform well in his heat race, leaving him deep in the consolation race field. Can the car improve? “I don’t know,” Carrier said after carrying a pair of springs to the back of the car to make changes. “I hope so.” … First heat winner Ross Bailes of Clover, S.C., is scheduled to start on the pole of the 50-lap feature in the quest for his first Lucas Oil victory. Crew members were working “to put more traction in (the car). It was pretty good in that heat race,” Bailes said. Bailes would like to have a good run for car owner Troy Baird, who is fielding a car for Bailes during a Speedweeks-only stint. “He gave me this opportunity, so I want to make it count.” Bailes ran as high as fourth in Thursday’s feature, but had problems when his nosepiece folded under and then the car eventually began overheating. … West Virginia driver Mike Benedum held the third spot most of the way in his heat race, but Brandon Sheppard swept around with a lap and half remaining, while Gregg Satterlee edged him by inches at the line. He pointed to a right-rear tire that was chewed up, possibly because his car was too lose. “That hurt me,” Benedum said. “I wasn’t very happy about that.” Benedum will try to transfer through the consolation, starting fourth, and hopefully he won’t have any tire issues. “I felt it going away,” Benedum said. “I was trying to be smooth with it.” …. Brandon Sheppard said he was lucky to find the top groove late in the heat to finish third. "Doing a deal like that is kind of hard on tires and stuff, so I don't know if it'll work for the feature, but we're going to give it all we got anyway." … Former track owner Frankie Lloyd cruised through the pits in his golf cart, greeting former employees with handshakes and waving at others walking by. … Austin Rettig broke a motor in his heat race and planned to take just a single lap in the B-Main in his backup car.
Consolation race lineup
(12 laps; top six transfer)
Row 1: Don O’Neal, Chris Madden
Row 2: Dennis Erb Jr., Mike Benedum
Row 3: Austin Kirkpatrick, Austin Rettig
Row 4: Dan Schlieper, Steve Francis
Row 5: Doug Sanders, Russell Brown Jr.
Row 6: Eddie Carrier Jr., Steven Roberts
Row 7: Kelly Guy, Jay Sessoms
Row 8: Chris Brown, Ivedent Lloyd Jr.
Row 9: Mack McCarter
Californian Jason Papich swung high around polesitter Jared Landers exiting turn two on the first lap and raced to victory. Landers stayed close to challenge a few times but settled for second. In a tight battle for third, Brandon Sheppard overtook Mike Benedum and Gregg Satterlee in a fell swoop with a high move exiting turn two on the outside, then Satterlee nipped Benedum at the finish for the final transfer spot. Satterlee had to start on the tail after weighing in 18 pounds light after time trials. The first start was called back after a scramble between Steve Francis and Brandon Sheppard in turns one and two.
Finish (top four transfer): Jason Papich, Jared Landers, Brandon Sheppard, Gregg Satterlee, Mike Benedum, Steven Roberts, Chris Brown.
Twice making contact with fellow front-row starter Earl Pearson Jr. on the first lap, Jonathan Davenport muscled ahead and raced to victory in the third heat. Pearson fell a half-straightaway behind on the third lap but held on for second while Billy Moyer Jr. held the third spot all the way. Kyle Bronson fought off Dennis Erb Jr. for the final transfer spot. Scheduled to start third, Thursday's winner Eddie Carrier Jr. dropped to the tail because he switched to a backup car and finished a distant seventh.
Finish (top four transfer): Jonathan Davenport, Earl Pearson Jr., Billy Moyer Jr., Kyle Bronson, Dennis Erb Jr., Dan Schlieper, Eddie Carrier Jr., Ivedent Lloyd Jr., Jay Sessoms.
Taking control from outside the front row, Stormy Scott raced to a victory over polesitter Donald McIntosh in the eight-lap prelim. McIntosh took second with Devin Moran and sixth-starting Jimmy Owens also getting transfer spots in the caution-free prelim. Chris Madden will head to the consy after finishing fifth. Sixth-finishing Austin Rettig stalled after taking the checkers.
Finish (top four transfer): Stormy Scott, Donald McIntosh, Devin Moran, Jimmy Owens, Chris Madden, Austin Rettig, Russell Brown Jr. Scratched: Mack McCarter.
Polesitter Ross Bailes turned back challenges from fellow front-row starter Kenny Pettyjohn to earn the pole position for the 50-lap feature. Pettyjohn pressured Bailes most of the way but couldn't find a way past in settling for second. Dennis Franklin was a distant third and seventh-starting Scott Bloomquist fourth. Reigning series champ Don O'Neal was fifth. Doug Sanders spun in turn four to draw a lap-three yellow. The first two starts were called back when Bloomquist jumped the start.
Finish (top four transfer): Ross Bailes, Kenny Pettyjohn, Dennis Franklin, Scott Bloomquist, Don O'Neal, Austin Kirkpatrick, Doug Sanders..
Heat race lineups
(Eight laps; top four transfer)
Row 1: Ross Bailes, Kenny Pettyjohn
Row 2: Don O’Neal, Dennis Franklin
Row 3: Kelly Guy, Austin Kirkpatrick
Row 4: Scott Bloomquist, Doug Sanders
Row 1: Donald McIntosh, Stormy Scott
Row 2: Devin Moran, Chris Madden
Row 3: Austin Rettig, Jimmy Owens
Row 4: Russell Brown Jr., Mack McCarter
Row 1: Jonathan Davenport, Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 2: Eddie Carrier Jr., Billy Moyer Jr.
Row 3: Kyle Bronson, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 4: Dan Schlieper, Jay Sessoms
Row 5: Ivedent Lloyd Jr.
Row 1: Jared Landers, Jason Papich
Row 2: Brandon Sheppard, Mike Benedum
Row 3: Steve Francis, Steven Roberts
Row 4: Chris Brown, Gregg Satterlee
For the second straight night at Golden Isles, Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., topped the qualifying charts on the 4/10-mile oval.
With slicker and drier track conditions than Thursday, Davenport blistered the track with a lap of 15.388 seconds. He’ll start on the pole of the third heat race.
Other heat race polesitters: Ross Bailes of Clover, S.C.; Donald McIntosh of Dawsonville, Ga.; and Jared Landers of Batesville, Ark.
Don O’Neal will start to defend his Lucas Oil crown with the first points race of the season. … The program will be made up of two laps of time trials for each competitor, four eight-lap heats with four cars transferring and one 12-lap B-main with six cars transferring. Two provisional starters make up the starting field. … Two newcoming drivers entered Friday: Lucas Oil Series regular Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., and former Southern All Star champ Ivedent Lloyd Jr. of Ocala, Fla. … Lloyd was a late arrival and missed hot laps. … Steven Roberts suffered some front-end damage during hot laps and was towed off the track. … Mack McCarter met the wall shortly after hitting the track for qualifying. ... Chris Ferguson and Cale Simons both entered Thursday’s action, but engine problems kept both from competing Friday. … The Southern Thunder Late Model Series is running a $2,500-to-win event on the undercard. … Chris Madden is competing in that division in a Cecil Eunice-owned car.
Time trials (unofficial)
Ross Bailes (5e), Clover, S.C., 15.431
Donald McIntosh (7), Dawsonville, Ga., 15.517
Kenny Pettyjohn (38), Millsboro, Del., 15.554
Stormy Scott (2s), Las Cruces, N.M., 15.649
Don O’Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind., 15.798
Devin Moran (99m), Dresden, Ohio, 15.803
Dennis Franklin (2), Gaffney, S.C., 15.858
Chris Madden (44), Gray Court, S.C., 15.866
Kelly Guy (28), Thomson, Ga., 15.885
Austin Rettig (94), Sikeston, Mo., 15.939
Austin Kirkpatrick (11), Ocala, Fla., 16.057
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 16.080
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 16.180
Russell Brown Jr. (00), Valdosta, Ga., 16.297
Doug Sanders (42), Springwood, N.C., 16.683
Mack McCarter (51), Sevierville, Tenn., no time
Jonathan Davenport (6), Blairsville, Ga., 15.388
Jared Landers (777), Batesville, Ark., 15.463
Earl Pearson Jr. (1), Jacksonville, Fla., 15.778
Jason Papich (91p), Nipomo, Calif., 15.805
Eddie Carrier Jr. (28), Salt Rock, W.Va., 15.854
Brandon Sheppard (B5), New Berlin, Ill., 15.870
Billy Moyer Jr. (21jr), Batesville, Ark., 15.927
Mike Benedum (25), Bristol, W.Va., 16.053
Kyle Bronson (40b), Brandon, Fla., 16.072
Steve Francis (15), Ashland, Ky., 16.083
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 16.202
Steven Roberts (111), Jesup, Ga., 16.385
Dan Schlieper (s9), Sullivan, Wis., 16.512
Chris Brown (21), Spring, Texas, 16.641
Jay Sessoms (84), Stanley, N.C., 16.643
Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa., 15.748 (disqualified: light at scales)
Ivedent Lloyd Jr. (21), Ocala, Fla., no time